A few years back I got to see the musical Urinetown
when it came through San Francisco. It's really very funny, and if you happen to live somewhere that it's playing, I'd recommend you go check it out. However, apparently, in going to watch it in some places, you might be seeing an "infringing" version -- even if it's been properly licensed. William Patry lays out some of the details behind the latest bizarre situation in the world of intellectual property rights, where the folks behind Urinetown's Broadway production accused those behind Chicago's production of plagiarism as well as violations of copyright and trademark law
. It wasn't because the folks in Chicago hadn't licensed the work. In fact, the "Chicago team" licensed both the script and the music to perform. Apparently, though, that wasn't enough. The folks in NY said the folks in Chicago had "blatantly" plagiarized and copied the NY production in producing their own version. This is the point at which it might be worth pointing out that of course
they copied the NY production. That's because they were putting on the same damn play. Apparently, the folks in NY thought that even with the script and the music, the Chicago version needed to look different than the NY version, which seems rather ridiculous. All of this came out in a lawsuit filed by the people in Chicago against their accusers in NY (who even demanded that the Chicago team "decline and remit" the awards it had won for its production). Unfortunately, the court tossed out the case, as the folks in Chicago apparently sued the wrong party in NY (whoops). So, perhaps there will be a follow up with the correct party being sued. In the meantime, it does seem rather ironic that a play about taking laws to ridiculous extremes now faces just such a battle. Perhaps it'll give the playwright an idea for his next play.